5 Thoughts on the Omaha Westside at Millard North Double-Header
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

5 Thoughts on the Omaha Westside at Millard North Double-Header

January 25, 2020

A packed Stable played host to a double-header on Friday night as the Millard North girls and boys took on Omaha Westside. Jacob Padilla was there for both games and has five thoughts on the action.

GIRLS: Omaha Westside 41, Millard North 29

DiPrima-time for Westside

I’ve seen the Warriors play three times this season. Illinois State signee Jasmine McGinnis-Taylor (eight points and 10 rebounds on Friday) and Rockhurst signee Ella Wedergren (six points and four assists) are the big names, but the player that’s impressed me the most is sophomore Adriana DiPrima.

She’s not consistent yet (perfectly understandable considering her age), but when she’s on (like she has been all three times I’ve seen her) she adds a dynamic scoring punch to the Westside lineup. She’s able to knock down 3s as well as put the ball on the deck to get to the rim, where she’s crafty with her finishes. She put up a game- and career-high 16 points on 5-of-7 from the field, 2-of-4 from 3 and 4-of-4 from the foul line.

DiPrima hit a big 3 in the fourth quarter the help seal the game for the Warriors and Westside shot 6-of-7 from the free-throw line to close out the game. 

Millard North Needs More Horsepower

Twenty-nine points is never going to win you a high school basketball game, or at least it shouldn’t. The Mustangs did a good job of hanging around as it was an four-point game mid-way through the fourth until the Warriors closed the game on an 8-0 run.

Cal Baptist commit Nicole Avila-Ambrosi wasn’t at the top of her game as turnovers were a major issue, but she still scored 12 of the team’s 29 points despite finding two and three extra bodies in the paint any time she tried to drive or post up. Taylor Finkenbiner, the team’s second-leading scorer in the game, hit two 3s to open the game and then didn’t score again.

Millard North actually got off to a solid start, scoring 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the first quarter. The Mustangs scored 19 points on 7-of-28 shooting the rest of the way. Millard North got nothing out of the post thanks to Illinois State commit Jasmine McGinnis Taylor’s length making it almost impossible to get the ball inside to Kaylee Kessler. 

Millard North had a lot to replace from last season’s state-title-winning team, and at this point in the season it appears they Mustangs are still figuring out how to do that. That being said, David Diehl knows what he's doing and Millard North looks like a pretty well-coached squad.

BOYS: Millard North 68, Omaha Westside 60

Vertical Spacing

The term “spacing” in basketball typically refers spreading the floor via 3-point shooters, but Millard North has a different type of spacing that you don’t typically find in Nebraska at the high school level — vertical spacing.

Millard North’s top seven are all 6-foot-3 or taller and all seven of them can throw down. Millard North starts 6-foot-9 Stanford signee Max Murrell alongside 6-foot-7 Nebraska target Jasen Green. 

Westside, on the other hand, doesn’t have a player taller than 6-foot-4 in its regular rotation. On Friday, 5-foot-11 sophomore Reggie Thomas was playing the “power forward” spot and spending a lot of time trying to defend Green. Thomas is a great athlete and never backs down from a challenge (he finished with a team-high six rebounds and two steals), but Millard North exploited that mismatch (and every other one on the floor) by throwing the ball up where only the Mustangs could get it time and time again.

Green, the sophomore forward who continues to make strides every game, finished with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting, eight rebounds (four offensive) and two blocks. Most of his buckets came on lobs to the rim or put-backs where he never brought the ball back down, taking advantage of his height and length for easy buckets. 

Murrell threw down a couple of alley-oops in transition in the fourth quarter to prevent a late Warrior rally, Hunter Sallis threw down a couple of high-flying jams and even senior reserve Noah Erickson shot the passing lane and picked off a pass for a breakaway jam.

Because of the lack of size, Westside uses a lot of zone defense, and Millard North countered that by putting 6-foot-5 junior Saint Thomas in the middle of the zone and he picked the defense apart, either shooting over the top or finding open teammates. He added 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting, nine assists and five rebounds.

The Mustangs converted 28-of-37 shots inside the arc (75.7%), and a lot of those Westside simply couldn’t do much about because of the size difference.

Simple Math

Millard North has made more 2-point shots than its opponent in every game its played this season including both losses. The Mustangs are shooting a ridiculous 63.1% inside the arc. For all the reasons I detailed above, the way to beat Millard North isn’t to go toe-to-toe with 2-pointers. Frees and 3s is the key.

On Friday, free throws were a wash; both teams made nine with Westside taking just one more. The Mustangs hit just one of their 11 3-point attempts, opening the door despite scoring 56 points inside the paint.

Heading into Friday, Westside was averaging 9.3 made 3s on 37.5% shooting. The Warriors are a very good shooting team led by arguably the best shooter in the state in Omaha commit Jadin Booth, a career 46.2% 3-point shooter with a few capable shooters around him.

Westside needed to shoot the ball well — above its season average — to get the win, and it just didn’t happen. The Warriors shot 7-of-25 (28%) and Booth was just 2-of-8. Westside fell behind by 13 at halftime and a big part of that was Booth mustering just four points. He came alive in the second half to finish with a game-high 22, but it wasn’t enough. Seniors PJ Ngambi and Carl Brown were a combined 1-of-8 from 3, which didn’t help either.

The biggest bright spot was sophomore guard Chandler Meeks. He scored Westside’s first 10 points en route to a career-high-tying 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting. As a freshman last season, teams used his defender as a rover, not even bothering to guard him on the perimeter. He shot 1-of-4 from 3 all season. On Friday, however, he was 3-of-3 from deep and is now shooting 52% (13-of-25) on the season.

Hunter Sallis’ Recruitment

Hunter Sallis continues to attract suitors from the college coaching ranks, and a couple of them were in the house on Friday night, one of which should be a familiar face for Nebraska fans.

Former Nebraska and current UConn assistant Kenya Hunter made the trip to Omaha to watch Sallis play. The Huskies have offered Sallis. Louisville assistant coach Luke Murray (who also happens to be actor and comedian Bill Murray’s son) was also in the house. Louisville hasn’t offered yet, but they’re clearly seriously evaluating him.

Sallis couldn’t get the jumper to fall but flashed his athletic talent plenty, finishing with 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting (0-of-2 from 3) and 4-of-6 from the free-throw line, four rebounds, one steal and four turnovers. Sallis put the explanation point on the win as junior point guard Jadin Johnson went between the legs and off the glass to a trailing Sallis for a high-flying dunk.

Sallis has already used one of his junior official visits at Nebraska, and he’s also taken a game-day unofficial visit recently to Creighton. With Millard North off for the rest of the weekend, Sallis is set to take an official visit to Gonzaga. Mark Few hasn’t offered Sallis yet, but if they’re willing to use and official visit on him then he’ll probably get that offer while he’s in Spokane.

Sallis is atop Nebraska’s recruiting board for 2021, but he’s not going to be an easy pull.

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